Humane killing of injured livestock

There are situations when it is appropriate to humanely kill livestock to prevent suffering. Animals that have been hit by a vehicle or seriously injured are examples of when it may be necessary. Whatever the circumstances, it is the responsibility of the person in charge to kill the livestock in a way that minimises pain and distress to the animal and is safe for those involved.

The most efficient and common way to humanely kill livestock is by a close range gunshot to the brain. Using a firearm can be dangerous, so the following points must be considered:

  • Only properly trained and licensed people should use firearms.
  • There may be legal restrictions on discharging a firearm in certain areas and police permission may be necessary.
  • A small calibre firearm is most suitable to reduce the risk of projectiles exiting the head. A .22 or .22 magnum calibre rifle is adequate for most animals if the shot is correctly positioned.
  • The range should be as short as possible, but the barrel should never touch the animal's head.
  • People should be well clear of the area or stay behind the person shooting.
  • The animal must be still and properly restrained. Never fire while the animal is moving its head. Shooting at a moving animal is extremely hazardous to bystanders and may result in further suffering.

Different methods are recommended for different types of animals. You must always make sure the animal is dead by checking for the absence of breathing, heartbeat, and eye blink reflex immediately following, and again 5 minutes afterwards. Bleeding out must also be performed to ensure that the animal dies and does not regain consciousness.

This guide contains information on the recommended methods for humanely killing livestock.